Port Angeles council decides addresses not necessary from public commenters

PORT ANGELES — You don’t need an address to address the Port Angeles City Council.

Council members voted 4-2 Tuesday to amend their rules of procedure to allow speakers to testify without giving a physical address.

Those who speak in public hearings or comment periods will be asked to state their name and whether or not they live in the city, have a connection to the city or are appearing as a representative of an organization.

The idea is to encourage civic participation from those who feel uncomfortable providing their address in a public forum.

“We’re talking about people who may have been victims of domestic violence, who may have been victims of stalking, who may be LGBT who don’t want to necessarily out their address to members of the community that may want to harm those individuals,” Council member Mike French said.

Voting in favor of the change were Mayor Sissi Bruch, Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter, Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and French.

Council members Cherie Kidd and Jim Moran voted no, saying the idea was flawed and that the council should reconsider it.

Council member Michael Merideth was absent.

“I feel I have an obligation to the people that elected me,” Moran said in Tuesday’s meeting. “Those are the residents of Port Angeles, and the only way I can confirm that this person is in fact a resident of Port Angeles is by knowing their address.”

Kidd, a third-term council member and dean of the panel, said past councils have been flooded with testimony from non-city residents on issues that affect only the city.

The requirement to give a physical address helps the council delineate who is a city resident and who is not, Kidd said.

“It is uniformly done throughout all municipalities across the state,” Kidd said. “Our neighboring cities require it.”

Kidd and Moran voted for a motion to table the issue to the July 17 council meeting. The motion failed 4-2.

Moran said people with privacy concerns could address the council through written correspondence.

He added that he was disturbed by non-specifics in a staff memo that said “several” council members wanted to change the rules on behalf of “some individuals.”

“That lack of transparency there bothers me,” Moran said.

Schromen-Wawrin said he proposed the change because the old rule “doesn’t serve a purpose.”

He added that some public speakers “wiggle around” the address requirement by providing a post office box number.

“The point is to know whether somebody is a resident of the city or not,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

“I think this (proposal) addresses our need as representatives to know if we’re speaking to a member of our constituency. I don’t really see what the benefit of us knowing their exact address is.”

Kidd pulled the proposed change off the consent agenda for discussion.

Other council members agreed that the issue was worthy of its own debate.

“I think that it’s critical that everyone in the community feels comfortable speaking, that we’re not infringing on their ability to do it in a way that feels safe to them,” Dexter said.

“And I have had people in the community tell me that, for example, they have been a victim of domestic violence and would like to speak to a particular issue but don’t feel comfortable giving their address for fear of someone finding them.”

In other discussion, the council conducted a first reading on a proposal to change the for-hire vehicle licensing code to allow rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the city under the same rules as taxi services.

“We have (rideshare) companies coming to the city that want to do business here, and they don’t fit within our current ordinances,” City Attorney Bill Bloor said.

No council member objected to the proposal, which will be considered after a second reading July 17.

”It is intended to provide licensing for both traditional taxi services and the rideshare serves like Uber,” Bloor said. ”The city has, obviously, no interest at all in promoting one over the other.

“We simply have interest to make sure that the vehicles are safe, that the drivers are licensed, that they have insurance and those kinds of public safety provisions,” Bloor added.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] suladailynews.com.

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